What is a Master Penman?

A master penman is a person who can make unique calligraphy with the pen, and their workmanship cannot be copied. They are often sought after for wedding invitations and other important documents because of the meticulous detail they put into their artwork.

A “Master Penman” is a person who has mastered the craft of penmanship. There are many ways to become a master penman, but the most common way is to practice and study for years.

Master Penman Jake Weidmann at desk in black & white photo.

We’re back with another installment of our So You Want My Job series, in which we speak with guys who work in coveted positions and ask them about the realities of their employment as well as tips on how men might achieve their goals.

Master Penman is another one of those careers you probably didn’t even know existed. A professional penman, to be precise. Master Penman talks about his work in this intriguing interview. Jake Weidmann tells how he got into this historic position and title (which only 11 individuals presently hold) and how he got there. It made me feel self-conscious about my own handwriting and motivated me to improve it!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself (e.g., where do you come from?). What is your age? Describe your job, including how long you’ve been doing it, and so on.)

I live and work in Colorado, which is a great place. I grew up here, and with the exception of spending the most of my undergraduate years at Biola University in California, I have always lived in the south Denver area. Colorado is one of my favorite states because of the beauty of its environment and the modest but busy lifestyle of its residents. Looking out my studio window towards the front range of the Rocky Mountains has been a fantastic source of inspiration for my work. “Blossom where you are planted,” as the Bible says, and I’m finding Colorado to be a wonderful location to bloom as an artist.

At the age of 24, I planted my roots here after graduating from college, and today, at the age of 28, I am enjoying tremendous development. As most artists do, I suffered tremendously at first, but choosing to struggle made me even more devoted to the endeavor. Anything to pay the bills and get by, I was taking on minor design tasks, a few commission works, and a lot of wedding invites. In the middle of all of my work difficulties, I was also dealing with personal difficulties; I had made up my mind that I wanted to improve my talents and achieve the status of “Master Penman.”

2. What is the role of a penman? What qualifies you as a “master” penman?

Master Penman Jake Weidmann artwork about ship in the sea.

A penman is a historical moniker for someone whose job and professional skill sets were in the field of different sorts of handwriting. Around the nation, art academies were established to educate men and women in the many disciplines of handwriting and hand-drawn letterforms. This was a lucrative professional path before the typewriter, since practically every big company required a qualified and adept penman to handle log books, keep records, establish policy, and execute certifications. Many penman would go on to work as itinerant handwriting instructors in elementary schools around the nation, passing on the exquisite skill of writing to youngsters eager to express themselves in writing.

A master penman was someone who was recognized as the most skilled and prolific pen wielding by his friends and coworkers. Platt Rogers Spencer, who created the first American style of penmanship — the so-called “Spencerian script,” Louis Moderasz, who was regarded as the greatest ornamental penman who ever lived and is credited with formulating the script in which the Coca-Cola logo is written, and Francis Courtney, who was dubbed the “pen wizard” because of the “magic” created at the tip of his pen


Several of these masters lived and worked throughout the country during the golden period of handwriting (approximately 1860 to 1930). There are now just eleven of us that have this designation.

3. What inspired you to pursue a career as a penman? When did you realize you wanted to do it?

"The Lord's Prayer" artwork by Master Penman Jake Weidmann.

As a kid, I was always attracted with handwriting. My mother wrote in lovely cursive, and I admired how the letters flowed into one another and how they appeared when they filled a page. I made a personal commitment as a youngster, when I identified myself as an artist, that every time I put pen to paper, the outcome had to be a work of art. As a result, I worked on my handwriting constantly throughout college. Anyone who saw it would nearly always notice it and make a remark. My teachers recognized me as the kid who wrote his essay exams like the Declaration of Independence, so I began receiving requests for tattoo designs and wedding invites from my classmates in class.

So, even if I had to start writing with a quill, I determined to examine the ancient method of writing and figure out the conventional procedures for executing script. I was searching YouTube for a video on “copperplate script” one fateful day in my dorm room when I came on a video of Master Penman John DeCollibus creating the most beautiful script I had ever seen. It was like witnessing ballet on paper, and I was enthralled from the start. My investigation continued from there, and I discovered the International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting, or IAMPETH. I learnt about the rich history of American legacy handwriting and what it means to be a “Master Penman” on IAMPETH’s website. I realized that was something I wanted to pursue right away.

4. What are the steps to become a Master Penman? Is it something you could study in school? Do you work as an apprentice for someone else?

The path to become a Master Penman was long and winding…but I loved every minute of it. Penmanship is no longer taught in schools, so I had to teach myself, just like all the other art forms I had learnt before it. The learning curve was uncomfortable, with a rollercoaster of peaks and dips instead of a steady increase. Frustrated by the low quality and scarcity of equipment, I began turning my own pens on a lathe. I’d work with them for hours on end to develop the muscle memory needed to perform the correct letter shapes and elegant flourishes.

My unexpected debut on the calligraphy scene drew a lot of attention. I used to go to IAMPETH’s annual conferences and would learn everything anybody was willing to teach me. I was greeted by the capable hands of eager instructors. My pens drew their attention as well, and I’ve sold several hundred of them internationally to this day.


Master Penman Jake Weidmann's diploma certification.

The existing masters took note as my work expanded in volume and talent, and I was nominated for the Master Penman program in 2010 by Rick Muffler, the White House calligrapher. Following that, I began an apprenticeship with him in order to get my Master’s certificate. The program’s last level demands you to create your own certificate as the finest of your previous efforts. On July 16th, 2011, I earned my Master Penman’s certificate, which I hand-wrote on calfskin vellum with an antique ivory pen and framed in Honduran Mahogany – the pinnacle of my labor so far!

5. Are there any career options for penmen? What kind of work do you get engaged for, and who are your clients?

Penmen are called to undertake a number of duties; the most usual are invitations and certificates, but the Masters are also asked to execute a variety of unique commissioned works. Many penmen work for high-profile clientele such as celebrities, the President, and even Pope Francis.

My current work falls within the category of fine art. Because I work in a variety of media, I am able to create a wide range of art for a variety of clients. Designing lettering pieces, painting murals, making unique works to be sold as limited edition prints, and carving in wood, bone, and antler are just some of the things I’ve done.

6. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

 American native Indian chief's artwork by Master Penman Jake Weidmann.

The nicest part of my profession is being able to do what I like and witness my handiwork come to life in front of my eyes. There’s no greater excitement or adventure than putting actual stuff into something that would never be the same without my input. A guy needs to know that his life and work will be meaningful, that his presence will have a concrete influence on his surroundings. Art has an instant influence on me, and I am pampered by it.

7. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

Mine, like any other job, has its tedious moments. I’ve got inventory to manage, orders to fulfill, taxes to file, bills to pay, and emails to respond to. I have to cope with reality in the middle of the enchantment that is producing art. As a professional artist, I must be totally immersed in both the art and business realms. I’m learning to live with this contradiction. What I make in my studio may be sacrosanct, but once it exits the door, it’s a product. Artists have a reputation for being bad businesspeople, and I don’t want to be one of them. I struggle with it all the time, but I’m determined to be excellent at both.

8. How do you strike a work-family-life balance?

 Zebras artwork by Master Penman Jake Weidmann.

Balance is difficult to achieve at this point in my career. I may easily get engrossed in my work and forget about the people I care about. People always come first, I have to remind myself. I know I’m out of balance when art removes me from my relationships rather than drawing me into them. Of course, in order to do what I need to, I need to spend a lot of time away from people, but isolation is only good for so long. I often experience epiphanies that speak into my job when I spend time in the company of people and chat about my work with them.


To counteract this, I maintain interests in areas other than my home studio, such as natural bodybuilding. Pumping iron is the polar opposite of writing calligraphy, and I’ve discovered that it’s the ideal daily discipline for dragging me away from my work. And when I have a better balance in my life, it shows in my creativity; I am able to return to my work with a fresh perspective, more drive, and more concentration than before.

9. What is the most common misunderstanding about your job?

People’s greatest misperception about my profession is that I do everything on a computer. Because we live in such a technologically advanced environment, the reality that I am still doing everything by hand is nearly unthinkable. Other designers often ask me what programs I use to produce my designs, particularly my calligraphy. While I am gratified that my accuracy is comparable to that of a machine, I need to do a better job of expressing the “human aspect” in my work. I’m not a minimalist, and I’m not anti-technology, but I’ve discovered that the hand is still the greatest romanticizer of the eye. Though the ordinary individual would be unable to detect flaws in a well-executed work of art or calligraphy, the eye identifies them as a product of the hand and is drawn to the human aspect that they both share.

10. Do you have any other advice, recommendations, observations, or anecdotes to share?

Master Penman Jake Weidmann making drawing in studio.

I’ll leave you with two suggestions: Choose to fight with something – we live in a fast-paced, easy-to-please world that has rendered us impatient and lethargic. When you commit to anything that requires effort and see it through to completion, you will grow as much as the item you are working on. Second, invest in art – not just my work, but any art you like. We live in a culture that sees everything yet sees nothing. Good art is a sight to see, and it will provide you with a feeling of calm and tranquility in a fast-paced world.





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A “master penman” is a person who has mastered the skill of writing with a quill. They are considered to be one of the 12 master artists. Reference: who are the 12 master penman.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many Master Penman are there?

A: There are two pages in the encyclopedia, one for Master Penman and another for master penmanship.

What does it take to be a Master Penman?

A: In order to be a Master Penman, one would need to have studied for years of intense study and practice. They must also work very hard in their craft with careful calculations done by hand or even using complex math equations.

Is Connie chen a Master Penman?

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